Posts Tagged ‘western swing’

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Can they cover Jimmie Rodgers ? Blue Yodel No.3

7 June 2009

Blue Yodel No.3 wasn’t covered a lot. Here are four versions:

The first one, Blue Yodel No.4, recorded by Bill Monroe in 1946, is in fact Blue Yodel No.3. I don’t know where the confusion comes from but it contains stratospheric yodeling ! In his repertoire, the blue yodels were recorded only as a pretext to yodel, so the numbers and lyrics were probably mixed up because of that.

Jack Guthrie, the cousin of Woody Guthrie, recorded Blue Yodel #3 in 1946. His version contains different lines but it still is an excellent song where you feel a certain western swing influence in the instrumentation. He made lots of covers of Jimmie Rodgers, it was his singing idol and he was known as “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy”. There certainly will be a full post about him, one day…

The Country Gentlemen made a bluegrass version in 1964 but it is a strange one. It contains great yodels and the last yodel of the song is more like the one in Muleskinner Blues (Blue Yodel No.8). It was recorded for their second disc for Mercury but because of contractual misunderstanding it was only released in 1990.

A very fresh and energetic version is the one by the Johnson Mountain Boys recorded live at the Birchmere (Virginia) in 1983, with really high notes in the yodel. This bluegrass group plays the classic music of Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers but with a modern feel, with their individuality, fast and furious at a time where most of the bluegrass group were playing a kind of fusion.

Bill Monroe – Blue Yodel No.4 (on different cd’s)

Jack Guthrie – Blue Yodel #3 (Evening sun yodel) (on this cd)

The Country Gentlemen – Blue Yodel #3 (She’s long, she’s tall) (on this cd)

The Johnson Mountain Boys – Blue Yodel #3 (on this cd)

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Do they yodel in the USA ?: Carolina Cotton

17 August 2008

There are not a lot of woman yodelers on this site… yet ! So this is a post about Carolina Cotton, the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell, who is a very fine yodeler, even better than Patsy Montana or Rosalie Allen say some ! Her songwriting and yodels are indeed very good, original and fresh.

Carolina Cotton was born as Helen Hagstrom on October 20th, 1929 in a Sweedish-American family and was raised in a farm in Arkansas, before her family moved to San Francisco in 1937. As a little girl, she loved going to the movies to see westerns and listened to the radio, singing along the songs and even trying to yodel. She soon began to sing and yodel in revues (and even appeared at the 1939 San Francisco World Fair) and relocated in 1944 to Hollywood where she played in movies and joined the Spade Cooley Orchestra. It was at that time “the” place for western swing. She had the opportunity to compose a lot of songs and tour with the bands of famous musicians like Tex Williams, Bob Wills or even the Sons of the Pioneers. She would say that she was their only “daughter”.

By the mid-50’s, she got married and had children and performed less and less to concentrate on her family. She became a teacher and worked in a department store. She passed away on June 10th 1997, leaving her recordings and movies.

My selection of songs is a bit arbitrary: songs with yodel in the title… I love to yodel and Mockingbird yodel were recorded in 1946 for the King label with Hank Penny and his band. The first song was written by Carolina, the second one by her former bandleader Dude Martin. I love to yodel was used in at least four films: Apache Country where Gene Autry yodels her tune, Smoky River Serenade, where she played… herself, Texas Panhandle, with the Spade Cooley Band and I’m from Arkansas. Yodel mountain was a Snader Telescription, recorded with Bob Wills in 1951. Yodel, yodel, yodel was used in another Gene Autry film, Blue Canadian Rockies. The song came out in december 1953, at the moment Hank Williams died and didn’t have a lot of publicity because of that.

And then also Nola, recorded in the same session as Yodel, yodel, yodel, because it is the showcase of her yodeling talent ! You have the illusion her yodel is echoing across the mountaintop: it is in fact due to the “sound-on-sound” technique, a technological breakthrough in times before multitracking.

Her yodels are full of joy and humor, clear and crisp, and her lyrics are often about the relations between man and women, but told in a very clever way. And now some trivia: she said she preferred to yodel in her bare feet, so she “could get a good toe-hold” when she yodeled !

I love to yodel

Mockinbird yodel

Yodel mountain

Yodel, yodel, yodel

Nola

Link 1: her fansite, full of information written by her family, and an album, also available on itunes

Link 2: Binge Discs with lots of interesting albums, and this Carolina Cotton album

Link 3: her page on IMDB

Link 4: Snader Telescription of Three miles South of Cash, Bob Wills and Carolina Cotton, with interesting links about the telescriptions.

Link 5: youtube clips

(thanks Bart for the info !)

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Can they cover Jimmie Rodgers ?: Blue yodel No.1

29 June 2008

From top to bottom, left to right: Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra, Merle Travis, Jim Eanes, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Half Japanese and Dwight Yoakam

Lots of singers covered Jimmie Rodgers. So here is a new serie: the blue yodel covers. I found already more than 70 versions of the 12 different songs. Some of the artists are not used to yodel, but try it anyway. Some others just don’t sing the yodel (like Lynyrd Skynyrd or blues artist Pee Wee Crayton).

Let’s begin with the beginning: the Blue Yodel No.1 or T for Texas. Here’s a selection:

Six months after the original was recorded, in 1928, there were already covers of the song. Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra makes a dance band version that can be played by any urban orchestra. There’s no yodel but it is a good instrumental version.

In 1948, Merle Travis sings T for Texas in western swing style, with a nice yodel. The song was recorded for a radio show, The Country Barn Dance for KXLA Los Angeles.

Jim Eanes & His Shenandoah Valley Boys sings a classic version of song, with a stringband, in the early days of bluegrass, in 1951.

In 1957, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, the country folk singer dressed in Levis and Stetson hat was in England since two years. English audiences were interested in his renditions of Woody Guthrie but he sang also country, folk and blues from the United States. The recording of T for Texas was made on a yacht at the Isle of Wight, just with a guitar, and has a beautiful yodel, full of energy.

Half Japanese recorded a completely crazy experimental lo-fi rock version of the song in 1986, with Jad Fair an Eugene Chadbourne singing and yodelling (I don’t know who does what).

In 1997, Dwight Yoakam, modern country singer, sings it with no yodel, there’s just some slight falsetto. The song has this really slow, laid-back modern country feel.

Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra – Blue yodel no.1 (T for Texas)

Merle Travis – T for Texas (Blue yodel #1)

Jim Eanes & His Shenandoah Valley Boys – Blue yodel #1

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – T for Texas

Half Japanese – T for Texas

Dwight Yoakam – T for Texas